PHILADELPHIA (CBS/CNN) – A Drexel University professor says he’s leaving the university in the wake of death threats and “nearly a year of harassment by right-wing, white supremacist media outlets and internet mobs.”
George Ciccariello-Maher, who is an associate professor of politics at the university, made the announcement on Facebook.
Ciccariello-Maher says the threats of violence directed towards him and his family has become unsustainable.
In an interview with CNN earlier this month, Ciccariello-Maher said he’s received death threats over the last 12 months.
“I have 800 unread voicemails in my inbox right now that have been building up over the past few weeks. And this … it’s just something that happens all the time,” he said.
“Threats that involve my child are, of course, the ones that are the most frightening to me.”
Ciccariello-Maher says the threats began last December after he posted on Twitter: “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide.” He says the tweet was a joke — a “satirical jab at a certain paranoid racist fantasy and that white genocide does not exist.”
In March he tweeted that he was “trying not to vomit” watching someone give up their first class seat for a uniformed soldier. He says he was upset about airstrikes in Iraq that reportedly killed at least 200 civilians in Mosul as part of effort to drive out the Islamic State, telling the Daily News that his post was “misrepresented by the outrage machine that is right-wing media,” and that his views were expressed off campus.
And, in October, he tweeted that “Trumpism” and the “narrative of white victimization” were to blame for the Las Vegas mass shooting that claimed 58 lives.
His tweets have gone viral and outraged many — sparking a bitter debate that raises a question for schools nationally: Should a professor’s comments, however inflammatory, be treated as free speech and protected under the banner of academic freedom?
The American Association of University Professors told CNN in an email that “academic freedom” should include “the freedom of faculty members to speak on matters of public concern.” At public universities, the First Amendment may protect faculty from disciplinary action for “off-duty” speech on matters of public concern, they said. But the group acknowledges that at private institutions, the First Amendment provides no such protection.
In Ciccariello-Maher’s statement posted on Facebook Thursday he shared this message with Drexel faculty:
“To faculty: tenure is a crucial buffer against those who would use money to dictate the content of higher education. But in a neoliberal academy, such protections are far from absolute. We are all a single outrage campaign away from having no rights at all, as my case and many others make clear. The difference between tenure-track faculty and the untenured adjunct majority—which has far more to do with luck than merit—is a difference in degree not in kind.”
Tenured faculty need to defend the rights of all faculty, at all levels, from attacks by the Right and white supremacists. Only then can we build campus solidarities that transcend such artificial boundaries among faculty—and beyond, to campus workers and students as well—solidarities that will be the last line of defense in what is today a losing battle for universities. We need to fight to defend our place in academia against assault from the racist Right, but we urgently need to realize that the struggle for academia is part of a far broader fight.”
Ciccariello-Maher also told his students in the statement that he admired them and to continue making the campus an unsafe space for white supremacists.
Ciccariello-Maher says his last day will be December 31, 2017.
Read the professor’s full statement below: